More than 200 people gathered on the boardwalk at Lincoln Boulevard on Oct. 20 for a ceremony commemorating the Wreck of the Mexico with an unveiling of a historic plaque.
The Long Beach Island Landmarks Association remembered the loss of 115 passengers and crew members when the ship Mexico wrecked on Jan. 2, 1837 just 200 yards off of Long Beach.
The victims — most of them Irish immigrants — froze to death on the deck of the ship within sight of the land of their dreams.
“The unveiling of a plaque near the spot where they perished will help us remember this terrible tragedy,” members of the LBILA said on their website.
Many local historical societies and community groups shared sentiments at the ceremony, including the Historical Society of East Rockaway and Lynbrook, the Nassau County Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Long Beach AOH Division 17, SUNY Maritime College and the Long Beach Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1384.
“For the past 20 years, the AOH of Nassau County and Historical Society of East Rockaway and Lynbrook have sponsored an annual ceremony at the victims’ gravesite in Lynbrook,” LBILA members said on their website. “The LBILA is pleased to host this year’s ceremony.”
Andrew Healey, chairman of the Nassau County AOH Charities and Missions Program and co-chair of the event, opened the ceremony as he introduced the color guards representing the Long Beach AOH, SUNY Maritime College, and the Long Beach VFW.
The color guards were followed by the Pipes & Drums of Glor Na nGael of Lynbrook, Healey said. Former Nassau County legislator Francis X. Becker sang a rendition of the Irish and American national anthems.
“There was plenty of hot coffee, cider and homemade Irish soda bread available as the crowd assembled,” Healey said.
Healey spoke about the recent history of the Mariner’s Monument, when, 20 years ago, the Gaelic Society of St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre and the Historical Society of East Rockaway and Lynbrook put together the first modern day ceremony, which drew less than 10 people.
Almost 150 years had passed before a ceremony was held, Healey said.
“If not for these two groups, the horrific tragedy might have been completely forgotten.”
Mike McCormack, the national historian for the AOH, said, “The Mariner’s Monument represents probably the worst Irish immigrant tragedy in the history of the United States.”
In 2015, the Nassau County AOH and HSERL celebrated the 175th anniversary of the Mariner’s Monument being erected in Rockville Cemetery in Lynbrook. In 2016, the site was secured as a New York state historical landmark, became recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior and placed on the national register of historic places in the United States, Healey said.
“In 2017, we added two memorial benches to add to the beauty of the monument,” Healey said. “In 2018, we are here in Long Beach to remember the victims of the shipwreck, the Mexico — mostly women and children of Irish decent.”
The site will inform thousands of beachgoers, he continued, who will pass by the site where so many people perished.
“How many people have walked, ran, rode their bicycles by or even just sat on one of the many benches here on this magnificent boardwalk, without knowing the true history of this location?” Healey asked. “Well now the public, with the help of the Long Beach Island Landmark Association, will learn something new about this wonderful city by the sea.”
Compiled by Bridget Downes